Friday, December 27, 2013

Chapter 43: Going Home

Where to start?

Winter break. Other than watching the L.A. Kings continue to have a solid season and a bit of local junior hockey, I’ve been out of the loop.  I booked my son’s flight back to San Diego for the semester recess.  He got back into town last Monday.  Unfortunately, I was called out of town unexpectedly before he arrived, to take care of an ailing parent.  So it turned out I was back in Connecticut when he got back to San Diego.

I’ve spent the past two full weeks being a twenty four hour a day nurse to my dad.  He’s 84, today.  We were not particularly close during most of my life, but after three trips back to help him in the past few months I've gotten to know him pretty well.  Suffice to say, hockey hasn’t been on my mind a whole lot during this time.

Our friend, Chad Ruhwedel got called back up to the Buffalo Sabres last week.  He’s been a healthy scratch for every game since he’s been back up from the AHL.  After watching three games from the press box they sent him back to Rochester.  

Black Ice!
I’m on my flight back to San Diego.  There is a Tilton hockey player on my flight.  I saw his hat and started up a conversation.  He’s a repeat senior and plans on spending one year at Tilton and then most likely a year of junior hockey.

Skates borrowed from Kyle at Whitie Bensen's
While at my folks house I got to watch the lake freeze the way it did back when I was a kid.  We had a couple of days of beautiful black ice but before it was safe to go on, it started snowing.  I visited Whitie Bensen’s and saw my old friend, Kyle Bensen.  This is the first Christmas at the store without Whitie.  I haven’t skated for four years, since my last back surgery.  Despite any pain I might need to endure, Kyle loaned me a pair of Bauers, a pair of gloves and a stick.

Used Skate Wall at Bensen's
I went home and waited for the ice to freeze enough to hold my weight.  Like I said, by the time it was safe the snow was coming down, so the beautiful black ice was now just a memory.   I struggled to bend enough to tie my skates, but I managed. I tiptoed on the blades out to the steps down to the ice.  I was walking on a stone patio and I didn’t want to nick the blades.  I got on the ice and shuffled around getting a feel for the ice.  Every stride came along with freezing cracks from my weight on the new ice. Being all alone on the lake and not sure if I would be falling through the ice at any moment was disconcerting.  I wasn’t able to stay out for long, but just the few moments of being able to feel the freedom of skating was pure joy for me.

Well, so much for black ice
While home, I looked into the West Haven High School hockey schedule.  I was able to make it their traditional season opening Jamboree.  It’s a mini showcase, round robin set of games.  Each game lasts only one period.  There are three teams, so each team plays two games.  West Haven played and tied Notre Dame of West Haven and beat New Fairfield Immaculate.  I ran into an old buddy and high school hockey teammate, Dave Hansen, at the games.  We caught up.  He told me something I did not know.  Dave was telling a story about our playing days and he was referring to what would have been my junior year at West Haven.  According to my memory I missed the entire season due to my spleen injury and surgery on the last day of the football season.  Dave swears I played on the hockey team that year.  I have zero recollection.  He told me he had a photo of me.  In the picture, he says he had just passed me the puck. We were playing perennial powerhouse, Hamden High.  I received his pass and one timed it, hitting the post.  He then told me the rebound came right back to me.  I shot and missed a wide open net.  We ended up beating Hamden 3-2. It was the first time anyone had beaten Hamden in years.  The bigger point is that I will have to do some digging and either write a new chapter or go back and rewrite the chapter where I claimed to have missed my entire junior season due to my football injury.  I still don’t remember a moment of that season.  I have spoken to other teammates and they do recall my being on the team but no one has any specifics.  In addition to Dave Hansen, I spoke to Dave Depew, Frank Longobardi and Mark DeGennaro.  I’ll be back at some point with an update on this.

Getting out of Connecticut was an ordeal.  This home care nursing was taxing.  Yesterday my sister and brother joined me in Connecticut to celebrate my dad’s birthday a day early.  As far as I knew, I was scheduled to fly out of New Haven last night at 6:30pm.  I was more than ready to go.  Taking care of an ill parent is one thing, but toss my mom, who is also 84 into the mix, and I had my hands full.  It’s best you not know how frantic things can get around the two of them.

Sunset on a melting Lake Phipps.  Setting up for the next freeze?
So, I was free at last. My sister drove me to the airport at the end of our time together yesterday.  She dropped me off and I went to the counter to check in, only to discover that I’d booked my flight for the next day, today instead of yesterday, as I thought I’d done.  Noooooooooo…..Another night thrown back into the soup.  I thought I was done.  I missed my wife.  I missed my dog and my kids.   I missed my life.  I just wanted to go home.  

I called home to let them in on my mistake.  The plan was then to have my sister and her husband come back to the airport in two cars, theirs and one of my parent’s.  That way I would be able to drive myself home and they could continue on their way back home to Rhode Island. My sister, Rachel had a party to stop at on the way and she invited me to come along.  I had been so cooped up with my parents that I jumped at the chance.  This was not just any party by the way.  It was at the home of one of Rachel’s best friends, Kiki, from college.  They both graduated from Brown University in 1980.  I last saw Kiki at Rachel’s wedding in 1986.  In the meantime, Kiki became a doctor, a psychiatrist at Yale New Haven.  She also married some guy named Ted Kennedy.

So I went to a Christmas Party at the home of Kiki and Ted Kennedy.  It was pretty cool.  Before I knew it, the party was over and it was just me, Rachel and her husband, John, with Ted and Kiki and one other friend of theirs.  At one point my sister mentioned something about having grown up on a farm in  the Florida panhandle.  Everyone seemed to be intrigued and started asking questions.  Somehow I ended up sharing our family’s history, including my grandfather’s background as a movie studio head back in early part of the last century.

Ted (yeah, I call him Ted, we are close like that) mentioned something that I was aware of but that had escaped me.  He mentioned that his grandfather(Joseph Kennedy) was also involved in the film business way back..

I realized in that moment that his grandfather and mine were probably what could be considered “bitter enemies”.  My grandfather was involved with Paramount Pictures in their early days.  These were difficult time for Paramount and they were facing a possible bankruptcy.  There was a proxy fight for control of the company and it was between one group led by Joe Kennedy and the other group which included my grandfather.  My grandfather’s side won the fight for control of the company and my grandfather was named president, a position he held for over thirty years.  He and Kennedy never spoke again.

Ted pulled out a biography of his grandfather entitled, The Patriarch.  He looked up and found my grandfather’s name in the index and then read the passage.  It covered this exact corporate battle which I’d just mentioned to everyone.

Then I had to laugh and told Ted that I had a story to tell him but he had to promise not to get mad.
Medals & Ribbons from the Pope

The story goes like this; At the end of World War II, the fighting was over in Europe.  It was still going on in Japan.  All of the movie studio heads, including my grandfather were flown to Europe to survey the damage and get ideas for making war/propaganda films.  At one point they were in Rome and my grandfather ended up having an audience with the Pope, Pope Pius, I think the XII.  I will stay away from the politics of the day, but suffice it to say that the Pope was very fond of Joe Kennedy.  During his meeting the Pope asked my grandfather if he would do a favor and deliver a gift, a set of medallions and ribbons to, “the Ambassador”.  That was the nickname for Kennedy at the time.  He had been the Ambassador to England.  My grandfather obliged. After all who says no to the Pope.

My grandfather concluded the trip, went back to New York City where his offices were and had his secretary contact Kennedy’s office to inform them of the Pope’s gift.  Kennedy did not respond.  Another couple of attempts were made.

With my grandfather and big brother
Now I’m telling this story to Ted Kennedy and I only know of the story because my Dad only recently pulled out a little case and opened it and showed me the medallions and ribbons which were intended for Joe Kennedy but now reside in a drawer in my folks house in Connecticut.  I told Ted Kennedy he could not have them, half joking.  When I went home and told my dad the story he said Ted Kennedy was welcome to them if he wanted.  I think I’ll keep them!

Unfortunately, as we were in the middle of this holiday frivolity and the walk down this historical memory lane, my mom called me.  She told me dad had a fever and I needed to get home.  Remember, I was supposed to be on a flight back to be with my family in San Diego. But, being the good son that I am, I immediately dropped everything and drove back to their house.  By the time I got there, they’d calmed down, spoken to their doctor and decided a trip to the e.r. was not necessary.

I went to bed, only to be awoken at 3am and we hopped in the car and drove to the e.r. at the hospital in Milford, CT.  I was there with my dad from 4am until about 11am waiting.  I finally left him to go help my mom at home.  We came back at around 3pm and I left at 4pm for the airport.  I got the hell out of Dodge before I got stuck there for another two weeks. I wish them the best.  I’m outta there.

Christmas with the family, back to my routine.  I hope to get to watch my son play some men’s league or pickup while he’s here.

Rocking the Czech Jersey
Scripps Ranch HS Roller Alumni Game
....Well, back for two days.  There was a special Christmas eve morning skate organized by Sandy Fitzpatrick.  Sandy coaches at the SDIA rink in Mira Mesa.  He used to play in the old pro’s thursday night pickup session I’ve mentioned previously.  He had a decent pro career, playing a handful of games in the NHL for the Rangers and North Stars.

I made a couple of calls and got Max invited to the skate.   When I woke him to go he decided he was too tired and
didn't want to skate.  I bugged him until he relented and I got him there.  He ended up having a blast.

Greg Park and Evan Schmidbauer
While home he also got a lesson from Craig Carlyle, Randy Carlyle's son.  In addition to Max, his buddy Jonny Neal who plays at Hobart, Kai Frankville of Colby and Austin Ortega from the University of Nebraska Omaha participated in the lesson with Craig.

Christmas is over, another skate with my old Thursday night group and then back to school in a couple of days.

Other than my dad's health issues, it's  been a good holiday.

Home for the holidays

Session with Craig Carlyle

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